Genes Can’t Always Predict the Future

Ovarian cancer patients with BRCA gene mutations have same long term survival odds as others

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Women with ovarian cancer can have their genes tested for mutations that trigger cancer growth. But certain gene mutations don’t necessarily help or hurt a patient’s chances.

A recent study looked at a group of women with invasive ovarian cancer over a 15-year period. The women were tested for a specific gene mutation that has been shown to increase the risks for both developing ovarian cancer and beating it.

The researchers found that women with the gene mutation were more likely to beat cancer in the short-term. After 10 years, however, women with the gene mutation had no advantage over women without it.

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John R. McLaughlin, MD, from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, worked with fellow researchers at Yale University and the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida to investigate long-term survival for women with ovarian cancer and certain genetic mutations.

Previous research has shown that women with mutations found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some studies have shown the risk to be as high as 44 percent compared to a 2 percent risk for developing ovarian cancer in women without BRCA gene mutations.

Past research has also suggested that while BRCA mutation may increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer, the mutation may also predict better chances of living for five years after diagnosis.

For this study, 1,626 women diagnosed with invasive ovarian cancer between 1995 and 2004 were followed for up to 16 years. All of the women were screened for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Screening results revealed that 218 women, or 13 percent, had BRCA gene mutations. 

When researchers looked at the women three years after diagnosis, those with a BRCA gene mutation looked like they were progressing better than women without the mutation.

After five years, 55 percent of women with BRCA mutations were alive and well, while only 39 percent of women without either gene were still alive and well.

After 10 years, women with BRCA gene mutations did not show any advantage over women without the mutation.

Of the women that were living 12 years after diagnosis, 27 percent had BRCA1 mutations, 28 percent had BRCA2 mutations and 27 percent did not have the BRCA gene.

The authors found no difference on long-term success rates with invasive ovarian cancer in women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations compared to other women.

This study was published in February in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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Review Date: 
February 25, 2013
Last Updated:
February 28, 2013